Saturday, 4 December 2010

'THE WALKING DEAD' 1.5 - "Wildfire"

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's the penultimate episode already, in the week where Frank Darabont's allegedly decided to fire all of The Walking Dead's writing staff. This is either: (a) the misjudgment of a writer/director steeped in the world of film, who doesn't understand how to run a TV series by utilizing fellow writer's talents, meaning he's resorted to clearing the deck and intending to hire more pliable freelancers; or (b) Darabont realized his existing writers weren't delivering the goods, so he's deciding to start afresh now the show's a massive hit for AMC -- even going so far as to stay on as showrunner, meaning ex-Dexter honcho Charles H. Eglee (who believed the torch would be passed to him once Darabont got the ball rolling in season 1) has decided to leave the project...

All fascinating office politics, ripe for discussion. I'd much rather Eglee took control of this show than Darabont, to get the ball rolling. However, to the episode itself: "Wildfire" was actually pretty decent, if only because it was suspended from three great moments. I loved Andrea (Laurie Holden) keeping an overnight vigil of her dead sister Amy (Emma Bell), causing great concern in the camp that she's gone crazy, only to realize she was just waiting for Amy to turn into a zombie, so she could apologize to her in that liminal state between death and reanimation. A wonderful sequence, brilliantly played by Holden, who's acting everyone else off the screen now.

I also enjoyed seeing Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) face a similar fate to Amy, as he revealed he's been bitten by a zombie and is beginning the uncomfortable process of turning into a "walker". It's just a shame that Jim's not a character we've know for long, so there's nothing to feel very upset about, although he's easily one of the more interesting characters. Why are they killing off someone who, in one episode last week, became more fascinating than Rick (Andrew Lincoln)? It was also disappointing that the suggestion that Jim's psychic (having inexplicably dug graves that are were needed to bury their friends by nightfall) appears to have been a total red herring. Again, it seems a waste to be killing Jim if he could have become this spiritual figure in the camp.

Finally, having the survivors finally leave base-camp in search of the CDC facility was a huge relief, as the show was starting to stagnate in that wooded mountain location. I understand The Walking Dead's a low-budget series compared to mainstream US networks output, but in comparison to the BBC's Survivors remake (which is made on a pittance compared to AMC shows) it was beginning to look, ironically, very lifeless and plodding. I guess UK producers/writers are used to these brief six-episode runs, so they manage to ensure things keep a steady pace and there's more movement. For example: I'm so happy there's another frontier of the story opening up now, with the suicidal scientist Dr Jenner (Noah Emmerich) at the underground CDC facility, working on a cure for the "walker virus" single-handed with limited samples, but why wasn't this introduced a few weeks ago?

Overall, "Wildfire" wasn't strong enough to get my hooked into this show, but it had more moments I appreciated (such as Jim being left alone underneath a tree to die), and it eventually kicked the show into a more adventurous gear. But I still find most of the characters incredibly dry and the overall story quite sluggish and dull, and fill my time noticing plot holes and inconsistencies. This week: why was Daryl (Norman Reedus) totally unconcerned about finding his brother Merle this week, or leaving him a message should he return to base-camp looking for vengeance? The issue with Merle has been the prime source of contention in the show, but was totally ignored this week.

WRITER: Glen Mazzara
DIRECTOR: Ernest Dickerson
TRANSMISSION: 3 December 2010, FX/HD, 10PM